“The sheep!” Richard echoed, frowning. Harriet laughed gaily.
“Oh, yes!” she said. “I told you I had ordered two or three young sheep,” she explained, “to keep our lawns cropped. They look so adorable, and they do it so nicely! Has he got them, Mollie?” she added, eagerly. “Oh, I must see them! I’ll be back in exactly five minutes, Mr. Carter,” she said.
“What are we supposed to do with them in winter?” Richard asked, smiling.
“Oh, they will have a little—a little byre!” she answered, readily. “You’ll—you’ll like them!” And he heard her joyous voice following Mollie away.
Richard pushed back his plate, and looked irresolutely after her. Then suddenly he rose, and walked through the pantry, asking two startled maids for Mrs. Carter. Etelka had been several years in the house without ever seeing “him” in this neighbourhood before.
Richard crossed a sunshiny brick-walled yard, where linen was drying, and went through a brick gateway that gave on a neglected little lane. The lane had once been the driveway for a carriage and a prancing pair, but there were only riding horses at Crownlands now, and three of these were looking over the wall at the grass-grown road. And Richard found Harriet here.
She was on her knees, in the pleasant green shadow of the old sycamores and maples, her back was toward him, she was looking up into the face of the old stableman, Trotter, who stood before her, his crooked, dwarfed old figure still further bent, as he held two strong young ewes by their thick, woolly shoulders.
As Trotter gave him a respectful good morning, Harriet sprang to her feet, and whirled about, and Richard saw the woodeny stiff legs of a very young lamb dangling from her arms, and the lamb’s meek little black-rubber face close to the beautiful face he loved.
“Oh, Richard!” she said, carried away by her own delight. “Look at it! Isn’t it the sweetest darling baby that ever was! Oh, you sweet!” she said, putting her lips to the little woolly head.
“You are!” Richard said quite without premeditation.
Harriet laughed, surrendered the little lamb to Trotter, and followed the old man’s departure to the stables with an anxious warning.
“They’re to have this little enclosure all to themselves,” she explained to Richard, when they were alone. “He’s going to build them a little shed.” And as Richard, his back leaning against the low brick wall, made no immediate attempt to move, she looked at him expectantly. “Shall we go back?” she suggested.
“That sounded very pleasant to me,” Richard said, with deliberate irrelevance.
Harriet looked at him in puzzled silence.
“I mean your calling me Richard,” he said.
She flushed brightly, and laughed.
“Did I? I always think of you as Richard!” she explained.
“So you abandon me on the Brazil trip?” he asked, watching her seriously.